ALBANY -- It wasn't easy and at times she almost felt like quitting, but Sarah Gilmore's determination helped her to become one of more than 380 fall Darton College graduates.
Gilmore was among the approximately 200 graduates that took part in the 46-year-old Albany college's fall commencement ceremonies at Cavalier Arena Thursday night. An estimated 1,500 people attended the event.
"It's a big accomplishment," said Gilmore, one of 18 graduates who earned an associate of science in physical therapy assistant. "I'm about to get married to a Marine (Jason Voeras) and move to Ohio. I almost gave up a couple times. It was a hard program, but definitely worth it."
Business administration graduate Garrick Hall was also relieved upon earning his associate's degree.
"It feels really good, now that I can get some rest for a couple of weeks," said Hall, who will transfer to Americus' Georgia Southwestern State University in January to continue studying business administration.
Although he had been on the Darton campus only 12 times, Marine Sgt. Justin Zaruba also graduated with an associate's degree in business administration. The 23-year-old took all of his courses online.
Zaruba started Darton online courses while he was stationed at the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany in the summer of 2007. He told Darton's public relations department that he selected the school because it accepted a lot of his military transfer credits and was more affordable than other colleges.
Zaruba studied for his degree even during his February-August 2008 deployment to Iraq, where he worked in supply and logistics. He said he would create time for his classes anytime he was able to access a computer or found "downtime."
Keynote speaker Julie Hunt of Tifton, a former University of System Georgia regent, encouraged the graduates to not "let life pass you by, there's so many things you can experience. ... Life is so much more fun when you take an active part."
Darton College 20-year President Peter Sireno introduced Hunt. He told the graduates that many of them would be better prepared than most of the students at the colleges they would be transferring to. The fall graduates received associate of science, associate of arts and associate of applied science degrees, or a certificate.
Last month, Darton College reported a record enrollment for the fall semester of 5,854 students. The head count was a 16.6 percent increase over the last fall's enrollment of 5,019.